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How to Make Pipián (Pumpkin Seed Sauce)

Pipián is a traditional Mexican sauce that comes in various regional variations, often characterized by its rich, nutty flavor and thick texture.

Texture-wise, Pipián is typically a thick, smooth sauce made from a base of ground pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or a combination of various seeds or nuts like sesame seeds, peanuts, or almonds. These seeds or nuts are toasted and ground into a paste, creating a smooth and creamy consistency.

The sauce is flavored with various ingredients, including chili peppers (such as guajillo, ancho, or pasilla), garlic, onion, tomatoes, and spices like cumin, coriander, and cloves. Sometimes, herbs like cilantro or epazote are added for additional flavor.

Pipián can be prepared in both red and green varieties, depending on the types of chili peppers and other ingredients used. Red Pipián tends to have a richer, earthier flavor profile, while green Pipián is often milder and fresher in taste.

This versatile sauce is commonly served over poultry, pork, or vegetables. It’s used as both a cooking sauce and a finishing sauce, adding depth of flavor and richness to various dishes. Pipián is deeply rooted in Mexican culinary traditions and is appreciated for its nutty taste, velvety texture, and ability to enhance the flavors of different foods it accompanies.

Key Takeaways

  • Who this sauce appeals to: Culinary enthusiasts, those exploring authentic Mexican flavors, anyone ready to savor the richness of pumpkin seed sauce.
  • Estimated duration: A delightful cooking experience that takes approximately 30-40 minutes.
  • Nutrition facts: A nutrient-dense sauce featuring the goodness of pumpkin seeds.

About this Recipe

Pipián is a classic Mexican sauce that showcases the versatility of pumpkin seeds. This recipe guides you through creating this velvety sauce, ensuring a perfect blend of nuttiness and elegance.


  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 3 dried ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 dried guajillo chilies, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup white onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste


  1. Toast Seeds:
  • In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds until they become fragrant and lightly browned. Be attentive to avoid burning.
  • Set aside a small portion of the toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish.
  1. Soak Chilies:
  • Place dried ancho and guajillo chilies in a bowl. Pour hot water over them and let them soak for about 15-20 minutes until softened.
  1. Blend Seed Paste:
  • In a blender, combine the majority of toasted pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soaked chilies, minced garlic, chopped white onion, ground cumin, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and a portion of chicken or vegetable broth.
  • Blend until you achieve a smooth paste.
  1. Sauté Seed Paste:
  • In a saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat.
  • Pour the seed paste into the saucepan and sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly.
  1. Simmer and Blend:
  • Add the remaining chicken or vegetable broth to the saucepan and bring the mixture to a simmer.
  • Allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove the sauce from heat and let it cool slightly.
  • Blend the sauce once more for a silky consistency.
  1. Season:
  • Season the Pipián sauce with salt to taste.
  1. Serve and Garnish:
  • Pour the Pipián sauce over your preferred dishes, whether it’s chicken, pork, or vegetables.
  • Garnish with the reserved toasted pumpkin seeds.

Serving Suggestions

  • Drizzle over grilled chicken or roasted vegetables
  • Serve alongside tamales or enchiladas
  • Pair with rice or warm tortillas for a complete meal

Storage Options

Pipián sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Reheat gently on the stove, adding a bit of water or broth to adjust the consistency.

Ingredient Substitutes

  • Vegetable Oil: Substitute with olive oil for a different flavor profile.
  • Chilies: Adjust the quantity and type of chilies based on your spice preference.
  • Chicken or Vegetable Broth: Use homemade or store-bought broth, adjusting the quantity to achieve your desired consistency.

Alternatives to this Sauce

Experiment with additional ingredients such as tomatoes, tomatillos, or cilantro for a personalized twist on your Pipián sauce.


Pipián sauce offers a taste of elegance with its velvety texture and nutty richness. Whether drizzled over meats or served alongside your favorite dishes, this sauce is a testament to the diverse and sophisticated flavors of Mexican cuisine. ¡Buen provecho!